40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain

Trista - February 6, 2019

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Recognition of the Duke of Anjou as King of Spain, under the name of Philip V , November 16, 1700 by François Gérard. Wikimedia Commons.

29. King Charles Didn’t Produce a Successor

Possibly because of his severe inbreeding, Charles was sterile. He had no children with either of his two wives, so in his will, Philip of Anjou was named as his successor. Regarding lineage, Philip was so far from the Spanish throne that a huge dispute arose over who actually had the right to it. That dispute became the War of Spanish Succession.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A painting of Charles. Art Prints On Demand/ Madrid, Museo del Prado.

28. He Aged Rapidly

Charles had poor health throughout his entire life, again, probably because of the inbreeding for which the Habsburgs were so well-known. By the time he was in his thirties, he was beginning to go bald. In the palace, there was talk that he looked elderly. He was also having hallucinations. The court realized that he would not live much longer, and they were right.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A family tree for King Charles II of Spain. Xeno Historian/Faith Web.

27. Portraits of King Charles II are Unrealistic

Apparently, Charles’ deformities were so severe that he was quite unpleasant to behold. While paintings that we have of him show how severe his Habsburg jaw was, they don’t show us the extent of his congenital disabilities. Whenever painters were commissioned for his portrait, they were told that they had to depict a virulent, healthy young man, quite the opposite of real life.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
People really did believe that Charles was bewitched. Science Fiction.

26. His Death Led to Witch Trials

After Charles II died, there was a massive squabble about who his successor should be. The Bishop of Segovia and Inquisitor General, Balthasar de Mendoza, formally charged Froilan Diaz, Charles’ confessor, with bewitching the king. Diaz was acquitted, so Mendoza arrested everyone who declared that he was not guilty of witchcraft. A reign of terror ensued.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Infant mortality among with Habsburgs was exceptionally high. Ebenezer Learning Center/ Can Stock Photo Inc. / andreykuzmin.

25. Charles Was Not the Only Habsburg With Poor Health

Hollywood has made quite a few movies about the Habsburgs, in which they are portrayed as having lives of ease and absolute comfort (think Marie Antoinette, who was herself a Habsburg). In real life, though, their poor health due to inbreeding was some of the worst in the world. Case in point: while Spanish peasants had an infant mortality rate of about 20%, the infant mortality rate of the Habsburg royals was 30%.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The Inquisition tortured and executed heretics. The Catholic Man.

24. The Inquisition, Not Charles, Ruled Spain

King Charles was mentally and physically unfit to rule. When a crown prince is unfit to govern, instead of declaring a different successor to the throne, the king often wanted to hide the prince’s inabilities from the public. As a result, a regent or other body governs in place of the king. For Charles, the de facto authority that ruled Spain was the Inquisition. Many people died as heretics as a result.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Charleroi was named after King Charles. Orange Smile.

23. Belgium Has a City Named After King Charles II

In 1666, when Charles was only five years old, and rumors were already spreading throughout Europe about the crown prince’s poor health, the people of Belgium decided to name a city after him. The city had previously been known as Charnoy, but they renamed at Charles-Roi, which translates as “King Charles.” Today, it is known as Charleroi, a shortened version of Charles-Roi.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
King Charles’ DNA was compromised through inbreeding. Cheshire Library Science.

22. Charles’ DNA Was Deficient…

Marrying a relative causes genetic problems for the children because of how the genes interact with each other. Usually, if one parent gives a gene that is deficient, the corresponding gene from the other parent cancels it out. For inbred children, though, they often inherit the same genes from both parents. Case in point: 25% of Charles’ genes were duplicates, meaning that fully one-quarter of his genes were the same from both parents.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
King Charles’ sister Margaret Theresa. Pinterest.

21. …But He Was Also Unlucky

True, Charles had an incredibly high inbreeding coefficient that undoubtedly contributed to his health problems. Surprisingly, though, his sister, Margaret Theresa, didn’t share those problems (though she did have the Habsburg jaw). She was born into the same inbred family and had the same “inbred coefficient,” but many saw her as a pretty young woman. She might have been more fit to rule than her brother.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Princess Margaret of Spain. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

20. Margaret’s Marriage Was a Big Deal

Because of Charles’ ill health, the marriage of Princess Margaret was considered a tremendous issue, at least in part to ensure that there was a successor to the throne. Like so many behind her, though, Margaret married her paternal cousin, who was also her maternal uncle (inbreeding causes family trees to grow straight up without any branches). She married Leopold I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Margaret died in childbirth. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

19. Princess Margaret Had Her Own Health Problems

Though not nearly as sick as her brother, Margaret had her own health problems that she had to contend with. Many hoped that she would produce an heir to the throne, but she was unable to have any children. She had two miscarriages and, though she did give birth to six children, only one survived infancy. He would become the Dauphin of France, not the King of Spain. Margaret died during her seventh pregnancy.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The flag of Portugal. Activ Doctors Online.

18. Portugal Became Independent Under Charles

Spain was an absolute wreck when Charles ascended to the throne. It had been embroiled in a 28-year-long war, the Portuguese Restoration War, which ended with the Treaty of Lisbon. The Treaty of Lisbon recognized Portugal as an independent, sovereign state with its own ruling family. The new country would be ruled by the House of Braganza, whose members enjoyed much better health than the Habsburgs.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The red-striped areas were Spain’s prior to the death of King Charles II. SSQQ.

17. A Political Earthquake

Poor King Charles. He inherited a mess that he did not have the mental capacity to manage (he could barely even eat or talk), and his inability to produce an heir led to wars that split the Spanish Empire. Because of the War of Spanish Succession following his death, Spain lost its claim to parts of Holland, Italy, and Britain. The Habsburgs still retained most of the power in Europe, but their hold on Spain came to an end.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
The area in red shows the Habsburg Empire after the death of Charles II. Euratlas.

16. The End of the Habsburg Dynasty

The death of King Charles II brought about an end to Habsburg rule in Spain and was the beginning of the end of the Habsburg Empire. They would retain their hold on Austria and the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire) for a few more decades, but they would never again have the same power and prestige. Basically, their inbreeding led to their destruction.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Fernando de Valenzuela, portrait by Claudio Coello, c. 1660. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

15. Intrigue at Charles’ Court

Because of Charles’ inability to rule, there was a veritable “game of thrones” at his court. Allegedly, the person that someone had to see to garner favors in the court was Fernando de Valenzuela, who was affectionately known as “duende,” meaning that he knew how to get sweets with the king.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Don Fernando de Valenzuela, Marquis of Villasierra, portrait by Juan Carreño de Miranda, c. 1675. Valenzuela may have been the lover of Charles’ mother. Wikipedia.

14. People Traded Positions in Charles’ Court

The irony of Charles’ court is the level of anarchy that existed within it. Fernando de Valenzuela, who may have actually been the lover of Charles’ mother, was the man who introduced ambassadors in the court. He was himself appointed to be ambassador to Venice, but traded that to be closer, in Granada, then trading that role to be prime minister.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Charles’ mother, Mariana. Diego Velázquez – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH / Wikipedia.

13. The Family Feuds Were Epic

When Charles ascended to the throne at the age of three, his mother Mariana, served as queen regent, ruling in his place. Her lover was Fernando de Valenzuela, the man behind much of the intrigue at court. To make matters worse, Charles had a half-brother, John of Austria the Younger, that many people believed was the legitimate ruler.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
John of Austria the Younger, Charles’ half-brother. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

12. John Was Probably More Fit to Rule

Charles’ mother declared him unfit to rule, but she wasn’t prepared to hand the throne over to the bastard son of her deceased husband. If she had, the War of Spanish Succession might have been avoided. Not only did John not have the disabilities that Charles had, but he was also a decorated military figure who had made gains in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Dunkirk.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Coat of arms of John of Austria the Younger. Heralder – Menéndez Pidal y Navascués, Faustino, Hugo. El escudo; at Menéndez Pidal y Navascués, Faustino; O´Donnell y Duque de Estrada, Hugo; Lolo, Begoña. Símbolos de España. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 1999/ Wikimedia.

11. John Would Seize the Throne

John of Austria was quite popular in Spain, seeing as he was a decorated military figure and the king, his half-brother, was not even able to take care of his own self. He ousted Mariana, who had been serving as queen regent, and in 1677, initiated a coup in which he obtained the throne from Charles. He died two years later; the rumor was that he had been poisoned.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Titus Oates. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

10. The Game of Thrones Continues

Shortly after John of Austria seized the throne, he found himself at the center of a fictitious plot instigated by Titus Oates. Oates fabricated a story in which Catholic forces, presumably from Spain and France, would invade Protestant England in a bid to bring Catholicism back. The plot was revealed to be a discovery when Oates couldn’t say what John looked like, meaning that he had never spoken with him.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
This is an official portrait of Felipe V (1683-1746), the first Bourbon king of Spain. Jean Ranc/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

9. The Country Soon Headed for War

There was much uncertainty and fighting over the crown following the death of King Charles II in 1700. Ultimately it was given to Philip of Anjou, aka Philip V. Unfortunately, the web of political marriages throughout Europe meant that though he was the son of Maria Theresa, Charles’ sister, he was also the son of France’s Grand Dauphin. There would soon be trouble between France and Spain.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Marie-Anne de Neubourg, Charles’ second wife. Robert Gabriel Gence – Bayonne, musée basque/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

8. When His Wife Died, Charles Remarried

Marie Louis d’Orleans passed away in 1689, and there was no clear successor to the throne. The coup led by John of Austria made the task of securing an heir even more critical, so the court betrothed Charles to Maria Anna of Neuberg. Her family’s claim to fame was that they had a lot of healthy boys, so surely, she would produce an heir.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
A portrait of Maria Anna of Neuburg on horseback by Luca Giordano in Prado Museum, Madrid. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

7. Unfortunately, Charles Was Sterile

Though Maria Anna would become the Queen of Spain, she would hold very little power. Her primary job was to produce a male heir, but this task was something that she would not be able to do. No matter how many healthy boys had been born into her family, nothing could change the fact that Charles was sterile. After his death, his autopsy would reveal that he had only one testicle, and it was shriveled.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Part of Heidelberg Castle, where Maria Anna was born, burned by the French in 1689 and never rebuilt. Malis/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

6. Trouble Brewed Between Spain and Austria

Maria Anna was from the other Habsburg stronghold, the Austrian Empire. Seeing as her only job was to produce a male heir for Spain, and she was unable to fulfill this role, though, he became a political pawn in a growing family feud between the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. She was loyal to her Austrian family, and her husband had to banish some of her German attendants.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Coat of arms as Queen Consort (1689-1700). Heralder/ Avilés, José de Avilés, Marqués de (1780). Ciencia heroyca, reducida a las leyes heráldicas del blasón, Madrid: J. Ibarra, (Madrid: Bitácora, 1992)/ Wikimedia Commons.

5. Maria Anna Couldn’t Get a Break

When Charles II died without an heir, the line of Habsburg succession in Spain came to an end. Maria Anna had to move around to different places but could not escape the escalating feud between the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs. She finally fell out of the spotlight, moved to France, and married a barrel-maker. Classic celebrity trying to live life on her own terms.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) as Queen in Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

4. Maria Ana Was an Inspiration for One of Victor Hugo’s Novels

The French novelist Victor Hugo, who wrote classics like Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, depicted the life of Maria Anna in a play called Ruy Blas. It is about a queen (presumably Maria Anna) who married a commoner. Ultimately, though, the play is a tragedy, meaning everyone dies at the end.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Philip IV of Spain by Diego Velázquez in 1644. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

3. Inbreeding Made Charles’ Family Tree Complicated

Charles’ father was Philip IV of Spain, and his mother was Mariana. The two were paternal cousins, as well as uncle and niece. This means that Charles was not only their son; he was also his father’s great-nephew, his mother’s first cousin, and his father’s second cousin. Complications like that one were common among the Habsburgs.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Philip IV’s most prominent favourite and minister, the Count-Duke Olivares, by Diego Velázquez. Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

2. Superstition About King Charles’ Health Problems

Though Charles’ impotence was almost certainly due to his inbreeding, various people were called to court to try to figure out the “true cause.” An astrologer suggested that when his father died (when Charles was three), he did not give him a proper good-bye. His mother actually had Philip IV exhumed so that Charles could bid him a fitting farewell. Needless to say, the effort didn’t work.

40 Odd Facts About the Inbred King Charles II of Spain
Spanish gold coin minted in 1700, the last year of the reign of Charles II. Numismática Pliego/ Wikimedia.

1. King Charles’ Autopsy Was Sensationalized

People loved to speculate about Charles’ poor health during his lifetime, and rumors abounded as to the cause of El Hechizado’s deformities. When a doctor performed the autopsy on his body, he declared that the king’s body had no blood, that his intestines had rotted, that his brain was waterlogged, and that he had just one shriveled testicle. People ate the story up.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“King Charles II of Spain.” Wikipedia.

“42 Fiery Facts About Charles II, The Bewitched King Of Spain,” by Matthew Burke. Factinate. December 21, 2018.

“The Strange Life of Charles II Of Spain”. Ranker.

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